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I just watched a trailer for the Embrace documentary featuring Taryn Brumfitt’s exploration to find out why women hate their bodies so much.
Confessions: It made me cry. It made me feel enough to stop everything I was doing, forget about making dinner, and write this. Then, I sat on this post for two days, considering whether or not I really wanted to share these thoughts with the entire world. I concluded, how could I not?
Because body image has always been an issue for me, as I’m sure it is for nearly every woman. And now that I’m pregnant and everything is changing, I’m more sensitive than ever before to my shape and size.
Too Young To Care
I don’t remember the first time I felt self-conscious about how I looked, but I’ll say I was 10 or 11. It’s then that I started caring about what clothes I was wearing and how I did my hair. Granted, my graphic tees and nape-of-neck pony tail weren’t doing me any favors, but I recall thinking they made me look like someone my crush would like.
I know the body positive movement tends to focus on plus-size women because the media is so obsessed with flat tummies and thigh gaps, but as a “thin” girl, I hated my lack of curves. According to the billboards (and male attention), big boobs are just as important as tiny waists. I say this with great trepidation, particularly after reading this great article about the importance of checking one’s “skinny privilege” — I continue, agreeing wholeheartedly with what’s said here.
Nearly every day of seventh grade, one particular boy (who has since apologized very sincerely) used to mock my flat chest. From then on, I didn’t go anywhere — including the gym — without wearing a push-up bra. I hated swimsuit season because it felt like no bathing suit on earth had enough padding. And while models strutted around with their gorgeous long legs, those attached to my 5′ 3″ frame are nothing to write home about.
The low point of my fight with my image came during my junior year of high school. After a rough break up that shattered my sense of identity, I became obsessed with what I was eating and what the scale told me. I knew the calorie count of every portion size of food imaginable. At my worst, I clocked in at 102 lbs.
Technically, that’s still a “healthy” BMI for a girl my height, but thankfully my mother didn’t agree. After she took me bathing suit shopping and saw my ribs, poking through the back of my tankini, she put a halt to my “healthy eating” and saved me from going down the road to anorexia. Even at 102 lbs, I didn’t feel beautiful. I wanted better abs, better arms, thinner thighs.
Even though my body image improved after that spell and I gained more than 15 pounds back, I was never really happy with my body. I still wore push-up bras to gym. I still worried about that “pooch” that women seem to be born with. I still preferred a bathing suit with a skirt to hide my thicker thighs.
Then before my wedding, I ended up losing nearly 6 pounds from my gluten-free diet, anxiety and concern about what I saw in the mirror. The lady doing my last wedding dress fitting tut-tutted my curveless figure — “He wants something to grab onto,” she announced, pulling out more padding from her drawer of fake boobs.
Once the wedding was all in pictures, I ended up gaining those 6 pounds back without much trouble. And then, of course, I felt guilty. How could I already weigh more?
And then just the other day I broke down, staring at my expanding midsection in the mirror. Just four months ago I was at my prime. I was 22, childless, and generally fit. Now I was looking at a rapidly changing body, knowing that I’ll probably never look “this good” again.
And at this stage, it’s just an extra seven pounds or so. But what about at 40 weeks? What about in the months that follow?
Between that depressing thought and my insane hormones, it’s probably understandable why Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary trailer made me well up.
Just yesterday I walked by girls in my home group who gleefully exclaimed, “Ah! I can see the baby bump!” At that precise moment I was both proud of my life-giving body — and self-conscious about how it had already changed.
Enough is Enough
But if I give birth to a little girl, I don’t want her to grow up in the same world that I did. I don’t want her cringing when she walks past Victoria’s Secret. I don’t want her worrying about her bra size as a preteen. I don’t want her to starve herself so she can fit the mold.
Whenever I’d complain about my body, my mom would always respond, “That’s how God made you, Natalie. Did He make a mistake?” (She just told me that this week when I said I didn’t want our baby getting my puke-colored “hazel” eyes).
Growing up in a Christian household, I knew better than to say what I was thinking. But her response to my body shaming was absolutely perfect. Why do we grow up assuming that the color of our eyes, texture of our hair or shape of our bodies is wrong? Why do we grow up focusing on all the things about ourselves we don’t like, instead of accentuating and appreciating the things we do?
So during this pregnancy, I’m going to enjoy my dimples and long, thick hair. I’m going to appreciate the shape of my nails and the way my lips look just fine without makeup. I’m going to enjoy this stint of not fidgeting with push up bras, not sucking in during pictures and not caring about the “food baby” I get when I eat too many brownies.
Because you know what, this is the way God made me and the way He designed my body to work. Somehow, brilliantly, He made a body that can carry, sustain and nurture another human. I should be proud of this, not ashamed that I no longer fit into my skinny jeans.
So tell me — what’s your favorite part of your body? Let’s appreciate them together!